Sunday, March 31, 2013

Five top novels with sporting themes

Chad Harbach's novel is The Art of Fielding.

One of five top novels with sporting themes that he discussed with Alec Ash for The Browser:
[Y]our first pick is Bernard Malamud’s 1952 classic baseball novel The Natural.

I actually only read The Natural last summer, after my book came out. It’s is about a baseball player named Roy Hobbs. He’s a young phenom who gets knifed by a woman on a train and falls away from the game for many years, but comes back at the end of his career and makes it to the major league for one moment of potential triumph. It’s a very dark book, in fact. Roy Hobbs is a really one-dimensional figure. He’s not a thoughtful guy. He’s very ambitious, in a narrow, greedy American sort of way. He only cares about the game.

The plot runs parallel to the myth of the Fisher King. The team is the New York Knights, the manager is called Pop Fisher, they’re seeking the National League pennant, and there’s this Excalibur-like bat called Wonderboy. It almost reads like an allegory.

Malamud does it very well. On the one hand it’s a very gritty book, and on the other hand it has deep mythic undertones. He obviously sees baseball within America as a mythic tradition. And if you know about the history of professional baseball, he takes a lot of baseball anecdotes from the turn of the century and weaves them into the book. So there’s the sense in the book that the history of baseball is a source of American mythos.

In the same way, perhaps, that the “Art of Fielding” book-within-a-book that gives your novel its name has a mythical, Sun-Tzu feel to it?

You’re right, the way that it’s written is quite Eastern – so not an American mythos but the same idea of a spiritual underpinning to the game, whether you’re a practitioner or a fan.
Read about the other books Harbach tagged at The Browser.

The Natural is among Jimmy So's thirteen best baseball books and Nicholas Dawidoff's five best baseball novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Five top works of accidental theology

Christian Wiman's books include Every Riven Thing, winner of the Ambassador Book Award in poetry, and Stolen Air: Selected Poems of Osip Mandelstam. His new book is My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer.

In an interview with Christianity Today, he said: "I read a lot of theology, even though I am almost always frustrated by it. Thomas Merton once said that trying "to solve the problem of God" is like trying to see your own eyes. No doubt that's part of it. There is something absurd about formulating faith, systematizing God. I am usually more moved—and more moved toward God—by what one might call accidental theology, the best of which is often art, sometimes even determinedly secular art."

One of Wiman's five top works of accidental theology, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
The Habit of Being
by Flannery O'Connor (1979)

Flannery O'Connor first became famous for teaching a chicken to walk backward. She was 6. There is something in the act, some essential absurdity and wry glee, as well as some essential loneliness that makes a child seek companionship in a hen, that goes to the heart of what makes this posthumous collection of O'Connor's letters so enjoyable and moving. O'Connor was a Catholic in a Protestant part of the country (Georgia), a religious person in a secular intellectual milieu, and her letters are particularly helpful for anyone who finds herself torn between the apparently opposite poles of orthodoxy and atheism. "Apparently" is the operative word here. "I don't know how the kind of faith required of a Christian living in the 20th century can be at all if it is not grounded on this experience ... of unbelief." Her letters are certainly grounded in this experience. The wonder is how often they—and she—flower out of it into expressions of credible faith.
Read about the other books on Wiman's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 29, 2013

Deborah Findlay's six best books

Deborah Findlay is an English actor whose film appearances include The End of the Affair (1999), Vanity Fair (2004), and Truly Madly Deeply (1990).

One of her six best books, as told to the Daily Express:
The Love Of A Good Woman by Alice Munro

I love Alice Munro because she’s very delicate with her writing. She creates a world and tells the story in an elliptical way. You have to join the dots to see what she’s talking about. She is very haunting. It is hard to write good short stories I think.
Read about the other books on Findlay's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten teen twin books

Penelope Bush is the author of Alice in Time, Diary of a Lottery Winner's Daughter, and, more recently, Me, Myself, Milly, which explores the dynamic between two identical twin sisters.

One of her top ten teen twin books, as told to the Guardian:
Tintin and The Castafiore Emerald by Herge

I'm allowed to slip this one in, or any Tintin book for that matter, because of the presence of the inimitable Thompson Twins. That is, if identical twins can be described as inimitable. The truth is that between the ages of 12 and 14 I didn't really feel like reading novels but I could never get enough of cartoon books. I would scour jumble sales and second hand book shops to find anything with stories told in pictures. We didn't have Manga in those days. So don't pooh-pooh the humble comic book, I still believe that the absorption of such things at a tender age furnished me with an appreciation of good stories, lively dialogue and humour.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Castafiore Emerald is one of Sally Gardner's top ten books for children with dyslexia and Rachel Cooke's ten best graphic novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Twenty essential books about the next step in human evolution

Annalee Newitz at io9 came up with a list of 20 essential books about the next step in human evolution.

One novel on the list:
Amped, by Daniel Wilson

In his SF novel Amped, Wilson asks many of the same questions that [bioethics professor James] Hughes asks in his scholarly work in Citizen Cyborg. Wilson imagines a future where people who have been enhanced with brain implants have an identifying mark so that people know when they are dealing with somebody who has been "amped." Again, humans have taken charge of their evolution — and that process has become deeply political.
Read about the other books on the list.

My Book, The Movie: Amped.

The Page 69 Test: Amped.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ten of the best books set in Paris

Malcolm Burgess is the publisher of Oxygen Books' City-Lit series, featuring writing on cities including Berlin, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Venice and Dublin.

For the Guardian, in 2011 he named ten of the best books set in Paris, including:
Claude Izner, Murder on the Eiffel Tower, 2007

The brand-new Eiffel Tower – the glory of the 1889 Universal Exhibition – is at the centre of this dazzling murder mystery set in late 19th-century Paris.

"Pointing straight up into the sky on the other side of the Seine, Gustav Eiffel's bronze-coloured tower was reminiscent of a giant streetlamp topped with gold. Panic-stricken, Eugénie searched for a pretext to get out of climbing it."
7th arrondissement
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see: Wai Chee Dimock's five top books on Hemingway in Paris and the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five books on Americans in Paris.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ten great novels about newspapers

For the Telegraph (U.K.), Sameer Rahim and Felicity Capon came up with ten great novels about newspapers, including:
The Sportswriter by Richard Ford (1986)

Ford’s novel about a failed novelist turned sportswriter was one of Time magazine’s five best books of 1986. It is the first of a trilogy of novels featuring Frank Bascombe: Independence Day and The Lay of the Land followed soon after. Bascombe’s life seems idyllic, yet he is actually a man in crisis: his novelistic ambitions are unfulfilled, his wife has divorced him and his eldest son dies in a tragic accident.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Also see Bob Greene's five best books about writing for the newspaper.

The Sportswriter appears on Aifric Campbell's top 10 list of portrayals of working life in fiction.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 25, 2013

Five top books about the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum art theft

The staff of the Christian Science Monitor tagged five books – fiction and nonfiction – that share a connection to the notorious March 18, 1990, theft of 13 masterworks from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, including:
The Music Lesson, by Katharine Weber

Katharine Weber's 1999 novel The Music Lesson imagines the theft of another Vermeer painting under a very different set of circumstances. ("The Concert" was the Vermeer work stolen from the Gardner.) But the novel offers an interesting convergence with some ideas about the Gardner theft. One long-held theory about the missing Gardner works is that they were stolen to benefit the Irish Republic Army and were perhaps being held in Ireland. Weber's novel tells the story of an American art historian urged by her IRA-connected cousin, first to help steal a Vermeer, and then to watch over it by living with it in an isolated cottage in West Cork, Ireland.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see R.A. Scotti's five best books about art thefts.

Writers Read: Katharine Weber (April 2008).

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Susan Spencer-Wendel's six favorite books

A journalist for over twenty years, Susan Spencer-Wendel left her job as courts reporter for the Palm Beach Post when she was diagnosed with ALS. Her new memoir is Until I Say Good-Bye: My Year of Living With Joy.

One of her six favorite books, as told to The Week magazine:
Alone by Adm. Richard E. Byrd

I am frozen in a wheelchair these days by ALS, so books are divine escape. I treasure those that offer an extraordinary sense of place, as this 1938 classic does. Alone is Byrd's account of the six months he spent researching in Antarctic darkness, slowly dying from carbon monoxide poisoning, witnessing phenomena denied most mortals. The book prompted me to travel from Florida to the Yukon in winter to try to see the glorious aurora he describes so well.
Read about the other books on Spencer-Wendel's list.

Visit Susan Spencer-Wendel's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Ten inspiring books about running

At the Christian Science Monitor Ben Frederick tagged "10 books to get you excited about running now that spring is coming," including:
"The Perfect Mile," by Neal Bascomb

Roger Bannister, John Landy, and Wes Santee were three men all trying to break the same record: the four-minute mile. Most people thought it was impossible, but Bannister did it in 3:59. Then six weeks later Landy broke his record by one second. Their fateful showdown is known as the Miracle Mile. One of the most iconic images in sports – Landy looking over his left shoulder while Bannister passes him on the right – has been immortalized in bronze. Even though you know the outcome, the book is still suspenseful and does a good job of capturing the drama. It also highlights Santee, who was never given a chance to compete against the other two.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Five top books on the musician in society

Stuart Isacoff is a pianist, composer, and critic; he was the founding editor of Piano Today magazine. A winner of the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for excellence in writing about music, he is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal and other publications. His latest book is A Natural History of the Piano: The Instrument, the Music, the Musicians--from Mozart to Modern Jazz and Everything in Between.

One of Isacof's five best books on the musician in society, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
Dr. Faustus
by Thomas Mann (1947)

Thomas Mann's account of fictional composer Adrian Leverkühn—a fantastical Faustian spin on the musical mind of Arnold Schoenberg—is not only great literature but also a thought-provoking meditation on the artist as "other" and on the tension between the primitive spark at the heart of art and the need for disciplined control. We see the young genius encounter these matters as a child, when "a stable-girl, with bosoms that shook as she ran and bare feet caked with dung" sings artlessly but lustily for Adrian and his friends, introducing them to the social cohesion that issues from musical harmony. We note young Adrian's isolating migraines and witness his urge to strike out on new musical paths. And we experience foreboding when his teacher evokes Beethoven's plight: his audiences, for his last works, "stood with heavy hearts before a process of dissolution or alienation, of a mounting into an air no longer familiar or safe to meddle with." In the end, master Leverkühn must, like Beethoven, confront the pain of an artist apart.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 22, 2013

Top ten books about outsiders for teenage girls

Noting that all of the titles on Darren Shan's top ten list of books about outsiders for teenagers were "written by, and is largely concerned with the exploits of — you guessed it! — a straight white man," Emily Temple came up with an alternate list "of outsider lit for teenage girls — or teenage boys willing to read outside the mold," including:
Out, Natsuo Kirino

Sure, the four women who figure prominently in Kirino’s Out could be considered a clique. But then again, each woman is removed from society in her own way, and they’re only in cahoots because one of them murdered somebody (about the most brutally outsider of activities) and everyone is blackmailing everybody else as they dispose of the body. It gets weirder from there, if you can imagine it.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Top ten fictional sex changes

Sam Mills is the author of three YA/crossover novels, including A Nicer Way to Die, The Boys Who Saved the World, and Blackout, and the not-YA novel The Quiddity of Will Self.

One of Mills's top ten fictional sex changes, as told to the Guardian:
Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Orlando, Woolf's fantastical biography, records the 400-year life of Lord Orlando. He begins as a nobleman in the court of Elizabeth I, and at 30 he falls into a slumber and wakes as a woman. Woolf believed the creative mind is androgynous. As a woman, Orlando doesn't feel any different – but society certainly treats her differently. The female Orlando finds she cannot inherit her beautiful house; her titles are pronounced in abeyance and her estates put into chancery. Only by cross-dressing, can she escape the constraints society has imposed on her.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Five top books from Ireland's newer voices

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books from Ireland's newer voices:
The Sea
by John Banville

Upon The Sea's capture of the 2005 Man Booker Prize, author John Banville told reporters he had unabashedly set out to create a work of art: the results verify this to be no overstatement. A mercurial novel interweaving three timelines -- at times within the same sentence -- The Sea details the journeys of Max Morden, a middle-aged widower on vacation to the idyllic beaches of his youth. Within this aging paradise reside Max's memories of falling in love with both the mother and daughter of an affluent family adrift in the wake of its own brush with mortality. Intoxicating in its deft language, The Sea is a marvel uniting generations of Irish men and women under the spell of a literary marvel.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Sea is on John Mullan's list of ten of the best swimming scenes in literature.

Also see Alan Barra's top twelve postwar Irish novels, Brian McGilloway's top ten modern Irish crime novels, Foyles's top 10 list of contemporary Irish novels, and Frank Delaney's top 10 Irish novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Top ten political books for teenagers

Saci Lloyd is the author of the Carbon Diaries series.

For the Guardian, she named her top ten political books for teenagers--"books that may or may not be political but that are definitely bursting with righteous indignation and great ideas"--including:
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

'Only six people in the Galaxy knew that the job of the Galactic President was not to wield power but to attract attention away from it. Zaphod Beeblebrox was amazingly good at his job.'

Douglas Adam's series is littered with observations like this. A very seditious book indeed, all the more dangerous for the author's cunning skill in masking his intentions with humour and an incredible cast of wild and wonderful characters.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy appears on Rob Reid's list of 6 favorite books, Esther Inglis-Arkell's list of ten of the best bars in science fiction, Charlie Jane Anders's list of ten satirical novels that could teach you to survive the future, Don Calame's top ten list of funny teen boy books, and John Mullan's list of ten of the best instances of invisibility in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 18, 2013

Top twelve postwar Irish novels

For The Daily Beast, Allen Barra tagged twelve of the best postwar Irish novels, including:
The Guards by Ken Bruen (2001)

Down the mean, green streets of Galway a man goes who is somewhat tarnished but definitely not afraid. Ken Bruen’s alcoholic, coke-snorting highly literate private detective Jack Taylor is the best dick in Irish lit, and no author in the country is more fearless when it comes to taking on the twin sacred cows of the Church and the police.
Read about the other entries on Barra's list.

Also see Brian McGilloway's top ten modern Irish crime novels, Foyles's top 10 list of contemporary Irish novels, and Frank Delaney's top 10 Irish novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Top ten books about Mumbai

Manil Suri was born in Bombay and is a professor of mathematics and affiliate professor of Asian studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He is the author of the novels The Death of Vishnu, The Age of Shiva, and The City of Devi.

One of his top ten books about Mumbai, as told to the Guardian:
Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta

A tribute to the millions of inhabitants of the city, chronicling their lives with acuity and empathy, mining wit and humanity from every strata of society. The author uncovers a Bombay that even long-term residents may never have seen: dancing girls, thuggish powerbrokers, mafia hangouts.
Read about the other books on the list.

Maximum City is on Edward Dolnick's list of nonfiction books with brilliant opening chapters.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Five top novels about coming of age

Shani Boianjiu's debut novel is The People of Forever Are Not Afraid.

One of her five best novels about coming of age, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro (2005)

In Kazuo Ishiguro's novel, the children are not quite human. They are clones, created for the exclusive purpose of providing organs for real humans. Starting from their school years, the novel recounts the lives of three close friends—Kathy, Tommy and Ruth—through Kathy's eyes. Highly perceptive, she delivers pedantic-sounding observations and shows barely any emotion. Still, the book's tone is a deeply moving one—it succeeds brilliantly in transforming the shocks of a dystopian society and the horrendous moral questions they raise so that they seem, in time, undisturbing. It is in the territory of more familiar human connections that the characters and their plight are most affecting. In their youth, Tommy and Kathy are unable to develop a romantic connection. As adults, they ask a former teacher why they weren't told the truth about what awaited them. She gives them an honest answer: "We kept things from you, lied to you ... but we sheltered you during those years and in many ways gave you your childhoods"—an answer that seems directed as much to the children of our own society as those of Ishiguro's world.
Read about the other novels on Boianjiu's list.

Never Let Me Go is on Karen Thompson Walker's list of five top "What If?" books, Lloyd Shepherd's top ten list of weird histories, and John Mullan's lists of ten of the best men writing as women in literature and ten of the best sentences as titles.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 15, 2013

Top ten books about outsiders for teenagers

Darren Shan is the New York Times bestselling author of Zom-B, Cirque Du Freak, The Demonata, and the Saga of Larten Crepsley series. He lives in Ireland, and his books have sold more than 25 million copies worldwide.

One of his top ten books about outsiders for teenagers, as told to the Guardian:
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

One man takes on the world in this sad but at the same time uplifting tale that illustrates how there is room for the freedom of spirit and expression in even the most restricting of places.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see: Top ten outsiders' stories and Top 10 outsider books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ten of the best books set in London

Malcolm Burgess is the publisher of Oxygen Books' City-Lit series, featuring writing on cities including Berlin, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Venice and Dublin.

For the Guardian, in 2011 he named ten of the best books set in London, including:
Xiaolu Guo, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers

In the first novel by this Chinese author, her narrator lives in Hackney and experiences culture shock with every step she takes. A traditional greasy spoon café has to be part of the authentic city experience …

"The café is name greasy spoon, Seven Seas. All windows is foggy from the steam. You order tea as soon as you walk into. Noisy. Babies. Mothers. Couples. Lonely old man. You are opening the newspaper and start drink thick English Breakfast milky tea."
Read about the other books on the list.

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers is on The China Beat's list of the 10 Best Books about Chinese Women in 2008.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Five top books of teenage misadventure

Amber Dermont received her MFA in fiction from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her short stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies, including Dave Eggers’s Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005, Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope: All-Story, and Jane Smiley’s Best New American Voices 2006. A graduate of Vassar College, she received her Ph.D. in creative writing and literature from the University of Houston. She currently serves as an associate professor of English and creative writing at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia.

Her debut novel is The Starboard Sea.

With Sophie Roell for The Browser, Dermont named five top books of teenage misadventure, including:
When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man
by Nick Dybek

Let’s move on to your fourth book choice, When Captain Flint was still a Good Man.

This is written by a friend of mine, Nick Dybek. He writes with unbelievable power and detail about the sea. Our books came out in the same year and we both have a character named Cal. Both our novels are set in 1987, and are about the sea and the power of the sea. Nick’s book is a retrospective narrative, the actual events take place when Cal was about 14, and he has an obsession with Treasure Island. He lives on an island called Loyalty Island, and everyone who lives on it is involved in fishing.

Cal dreams of the sea. There’s this relationship between the ocean and the land: when you’re out at sea and you sleep out on the water, with the hypnotic rhythm of the waves, you have these funny dreams that often involve land in these crazy ways. When you can’t tread on the earth you become this other species. But when you come back to the land, you long desperately for the sea. There are so many gorgeous scenes about the ocean in the book. There’s a scene when a character falls into a crab cage, and the cage goes down into the ocean at hurtling speed. It’s so haunting.

Cal’s father is a fisherman, he’s out at sea for months. When times are good they’re wonderful, but you’re always at the mercy of the weather and the market. It’s just such a tough life. I love the child noticing the parents’ hardship and wanting to romanticize the world, but being aware that’s a very dangerous thing to do – making a world seem more glamorous and exciting than it actually is.

There’s a man called John Gaunt, who owns the fleet of boats, and when he dies, his son Richard plans to sell the whole thing off. So you have this dilemma – everyone on the island is going to potentially lose their livelihood.

Some of the reviews comment on what a great plot the book has.

I do think it’s a brilliantly plotted book. It has many secrets that it doesn’t willingly give up. Plot is very important to me as a writer, I think it’s underrated.

Again, this book touches on the theme of bad marriages or broken families. Why are you so attracted to those?

My own family is incredibly stable and supportive, my parents have been married for years, and they still love each other. I’ve an older sister and a younger brother, I’m the middle child, observant, often-overlooked – and happy to be overlooked. But the friends that I made often didn’t have that in their lives – I had a lot of friends who had tremendous instability. I think there’s a kind of honesty to it. A family really only stays together if people are willing to compromise, and there’s a certain dishonesty to compromise. So if people are unwilling to compromise it creates all this drama and you actually get to see what it is the parents really want for themselves. Parents give up so much of their lives for their children and when a parent decides not to give something up for a child, it creates this unbelievable opportunity for narrative, for story.
Read about the other books Dermont tagged at The Browser.

Writers Read: Nick Dybek (April 2012).

Visit Amber Dermont's Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: The Starboard Sea.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Ten of the top wild parties in literature

Panayiota Kuvetakis is a student at UC Berkeley studying comparative literature and theater. For Writer's Bloq, she named a top ten list of wild parties in literature, including:
Angela Vicario and Bayardo San Roman’s Wedding – Chronicle of a Death Foretold

So exquisite that Santiago Nasar spends the whole eve of his death estimating how much the cost is. All the young bachelors wind up at a brothel where they engage in sinful activity all night, just in time to greet the bishop in the morning and find out that Angela Vicario isn’t as innocent she looks. The wedding catalyzes a blood-thirsty quest to redeem family honor, and – everyone’s favorite – fateful death. #Rage
Read about the other entries on the list.

Chronicle of a Death Foretold is on Dan Rhodes's top ten list of short books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 11, 2013

Five of the best books on influential presidential advisers

David Roll is a partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP and founder of Lex Mundi Pro Bono Foundation, a public interest organization that provides pro bono legal services to social entrepreneurs around the world. He was awarded the Purpose Prize Fellowship by Civic Ventures in 2009.

His new book is The Hopkins Touch: Harry Hopkins and the Forging of the Alliance to Defeat Hitler.

One of Roll's five best books on the most influential presidential advisers, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
Present at the Creation
by Dean Acheson (1969)

In 1964, Dean Acheson vowed not to write about his career as Truman's secretary of state, for fear that "the element of self-justification could not be excluded." Casual readers and scholars alike should be ever grateful that Acheson broke his promise. As autobiography, "Present at the Creation" lacks detachment. Nevertheless, it is an enthralling, eloquent and indispensable year-by-year account of how a supremely confident secretary of state guided an inexperienced yet decisive president through the hottest fires of the Cold War. Nourished on the classics, Acheson is a profoundly articulate writer, with the gift of wit and anecdote, an eye for character, and a wide-ranging knowledge of history. His vivid descriptions of Winston Churchill—his art, his artifices, his courage, along with hilarious stories such as the tale of how the prime minister "puffed hard on his cigar and fought back" when his paintings were criticized by Acheson's wife—are especially apt.
Read about the other books on Roll's list.

Present at the Creation is one of Evan Thomas's five best books on statesmen.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The ten greatest (fictional) female scientists

One character from io9's list of the ten greatest (fictional) female scientists:
Susan Calvin, I, Robot

As the main character of Asimov's ground breaking I, Robot short story collection - where the three laws of robotics first appeared, Dr. Calvin is a luminary in science fiction. As a pioneer and the preeminent practitioner of Robopsychology she was called in to solve problems no other engineer or scientist in the vast US Robots and Mechanical Men could. She is inspiring because she rose to great professional heights and fame despite the outright chauvinism she faced in the good ole boy 1950's inspired world she inhabited. Her general misanthropy and unsentimental outlook makes her strong and interesting character able to sharply reason and overcome not only challenging technical problems but also overcome a world unappreciative of intelligent women.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Lynda La Plante's six best books

Lynda La Plante is an English author, screenwriter and former actress, best known for writing the Prime Suspect television crime series.

One of her six best books, as told to the Daily Express:
THE BLACK DAHLIA by James Ellroy

Because of my fascination with crime, the case of the Black Dahlia – the nickname given to an American woman who became the victim of a gruesome murder – is beyond belief. This case in the 1940s has produced many fascinating off-shoots and I particularly like Ellroy’s novel. There is a darkness and strength to his writing that is compulsive.
Read about the other books on the list.

The Black Dahlia also appears among Jonathan Kellerman's six favorite books and on David Bowman's list of five great noir novels from the post-Chandler generations.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 8, 2013

Top 10 fictional drownings

Lynn Shepherd is the author of the award-winning Murder at Mansfield Park. She studied English at Oxford and was a professional copywriter for over a decade. Her new novel of historical suspense is A Treacherous Likeness.

One of her top ten fictional drownings, as told to the Guardian:
James Steerforth in David Copperfield

Steerforth is David's childhood friend and protector, a darkly charismatic man who later seduces "Little Em'ly", the niece of David's housekeeper, Clara Peggotty. Steerforth abandons Emily to go to sea, and in one of those coincidences that Charles Dickens can never resist, Emily's broken-hearted fiancé, Ham, eventually gives his own life in a futile attempt to rescue a sailor from a ship going down in a storm, and that sailor turns out to be none other than Steerforth.
Read about the other drownings on the list.

David Copperfield is one of Elizabeth Gilbert's six favorite books. It appears on John Mullan's lists of ten of the best seductions in literature, ten of the best trips to Canterbury in literature and ten of the best valets in literature.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Five top books on the powers & pleasures of mathematics

One title on the Barnes & Noble Review's list of five top books on the powers and pleasures of mathematics:
by John Allen Paulos

Numbers carry facts, ideas, information, and intelligence of every sort. What are the consequences of not understanding the relationships and probabilities they express? From sports to stocks, lotteries to political polls and elections, Paulos provides an enlightening—and entertaining—course in the costs of innumeracy.
Read about the other books on the list.

Also see Ian Stewart's top ten popular mathematics books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Five top humorous yet weighty novels

Sam Lipsyte is the author of Venus Drive, The Subject Steve, Home Land, and The Ask, the latter two New York Times Notable Books. He won the first annual Believer Book Award and was a 2008 Guggenheim Fellow. Lipsyte's new book is The Fun Parts, a collection of stories.

One of his five favorite humorous yet weighty novels, as told to The Daily Beast:
Sabbath’s Theater
by Philip Roth

This is one of Roth’s best, and master of puppets Mickey Sabbath is a beautiful outrage. You will never feel the same way again about art, death, love, and sniffing your friend’s daughter’s underwear.
Read about the other books on the list.

Sabbath's Theater is among Ben Schrank's top six books on love, betrayal, and creative people who behave badly, Edward Docx's top ten deranged characters, and Howard Jacobson's five best novels on failure.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Eleven preposterously manly fantasy series

At io9, Rob Bricken came up with eleven preposterously manly fantasy series, including:
The Dark Tower

Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name trilogy include some of the manliest movies ever made, and they're probably the largest of the 18 million inspirations for Stephen King's sprawling Dark Tower series about Roland the Gunslinger's search for the titular tower. While a woman is one of the main characters, The Dark Tower's Mid-World is a definitely man's world, where death is cheap, monsters abound, bullets fly, demons rape women, babies eat succubi, and all sort of action-packed violence, horror and other manly shenanigans.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 4, 2013

Ten top first novels

Nicholas Royle's seventh and most recent novel is First Novel.

One of his ten top first novels, as told to the Guardian:
The Horned Man by James Lasdun

Wait a minute, here's another amazing first novel set in New York. If you liked director Adrian Lyne's criminally underrated Jacob's Ladder, an alternately terrifying and moving story of a Vietnam vet caught between heaven and hell, you'll love The Horned Man. The clue is in the title. (Lasdun says he has never seen the movie and I believe him.)
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Horned Man is one of Brian DeLeeuw's five best debut novels of the decade [2000s].

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Seven notable writers' graves

Peter Stanford is a writer, biographer, journalist and broadcaster. His new book is How To Read a Graveyard: Journeys in the Company of the Dead.

Seven of his top ten graves are for persons known primarily for their writing. One writer's grave on the list:
Oscar Wilde
Père-Lachaise, Paris

Wilde’s grave vies with that of Jim Morrison as the biggest tourist attraction in this graveyard of the great and good (Balzac, Chopin, Delacroix, Ingres, Molière, Piaf, and the lovers Abélard and Héloïse among others). It is regularly covered in red lipstick kisses and is both a lovers’ rendezvous and a rallying point against homophobia. The memorial – a naked birdman made by the sculptor, Jacob Epstein – has proved controversial. Unveiled in 1914, it had to be covered up because of complaints about the figure’s exposed genitals. A fig leaf was added but in the 1920s a group of anti-censorship protestors tried to chisel it off and ended up inadvertently carrying out a castration. The detached lump of stone was said to have ended up as a paperweight on the cemetery superintendent’s desk.
See the other graves on Stanford's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Four love-charmed novels from bombed London

One title from Newsweek's list of love-charmed novels from bomb-blitzed London:
The End of the Affair (1951)
by Graham Greene

One of the most devastating novels ever written, Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair (1951) is the tale a middle-aged writer, Maurice, and his relationship with Sarah, the wife of a mild-mannered civil servant. The two embark on an intense love affair until Maurice is nearly killed after a bomb blasts his flat while the two are making love. Sarah ends the liaison without explanation, and the novel begins 18 months after, a bitter Maurice desperate for answers.
Read about the other books on the list.

The End of the Affair also appears on Alex Preston's top 10 list of fictional characters struggling with faith, John Mullan's lists of ten of the best explosions in literature, ten of the best umbrellas in literature, ten of the best novels about novelists, and ten of the best priests in literature, and Douglas Kennedy's top ten list of books about grief. It is one of Pico Iyer's four essential Graham Greene novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Five authoritative works on Hollywood

Jeanine Basinger's latest book is I Do and I Don't: A History of Marriage in the Movies.

One of her five best authoritative works on Hollywood, as told to the Wall Street Journal:
The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Book
by Arlene Croce (1972)

The artistry of Fred Astaire alone has inspired many well-written, intelligent books, but none better than dance critic Arlene Croce's graceful masterpiece, which focuses on his delightful films paired with Ginger Rogers. Croce fully appreciates Astaire's perfection as a soloist, but she never neglects Rogers. Calling them "the la belle, la perfectly swell romance" (using lyrics from "Never Gonna Dance" in "Swing Time"), Croce says that, without Rogers, Astaire inhabits "a world of sun without a moon." Croce also knows their movies have other things to offer. Things like romance, fashion, comedy, poetic song lyrics, art deco design, colorful character actors, and a kind of fresh and unpretentious charm that seems to have disappeared off the modern movie screen. With a complete description of every movie, detailed commentary on each song and dance, and full background production notes, this book could serve as a classroom text, but it's so much more. Croce caught the rhythm, the pace, the beat of the heart and the tap of the toe, plus all the elegance and style that make up the enduring legacy of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Book is one of Michael Wood's top ten books on film.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 1, 2013

Ten top children's steampunk books

Sharon Gosling is the author of The Diamond Thief, a steampunk adventure set in the gaslit world of Victorian London. For her, "steampunk is the plucky adventurousness of Victorian sensibilities re-imagined with extra, fantastical machinery."

One of Gosling's top ten children's steampunk books, as told to the Guardian:
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne

With the advent of modern steampunk, Verne's mechanical fantasies have been re-coined as "proto-steampunk". His story of underwater adventure is fascinating not only because it was so far ahead of its time, but also for all the technical information he details about how his fantasy sub Nautilus was built. As a result, it's easy to believe that it really could have been. Gentle, perhaps, by today's standards, but perfect for firing young imaginations.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue